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Magic Johnson Deems Miami Heat Favorites, Lakers Close

Magic Johnson knows a champion when he sees one, and the Hall of Fame point guard who has blossomed as a business paragon, views the reigning titlists Miami Heat as the NBA’s top team going into this season.

It is a matter of respect.

“You still have to consider Miami the favorite because they’re the defending world champions,” Johnson said to the Los Angeles Times.

However, the former Laker also sees his old team as a worthy challenger — once they integrate newcomers Steve Nash and Dwight Howard into the system.

“I think the Lakers are right there with them, no question about it,” Johnson said. “It’s going to take them a couple of months to get to know each other, probably about three months to become a real team. You have Steve Nash, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, and Pau Gasol. So they have to learn how to mesh together. Once they do that, they’re going to be awesome.”

Johnson’s guess of 90 days to get in sync probably makes Laker fans nervous. They are used to success at the outset. But keep in mind it took LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and entire season before they elevated the Miami Heat to champions. And the Heat have added Ray Allen and Rashard Lewis to fortify their bench.

“They got talent,” Johnson said, “. . . just like we have on our team. Before we get to Miami, we have to concentrate on Oklahoma City and really look to take them down first. But the Lakers are awesome. Mitch Kupchak and Jim Buss have done an amazing job and we’re all going to benefit from that.

“I think the Lakers to me, if they can put it all together, are better (than OKC),” Johnson said.

For the Lakers, the way Johnson sees it, their success will be predicated not on offense.

“We have to play great defense,” Johnson said. “It’s going to depend on that. We’re going to get easier baskets because Steve Nash will run more. A lot will happen that’s different than we ever had before. Steve Nash can score and also assist. That’s something different that we never had before in a long time at the point guard position.”

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